Sammi’s Weekender #144: sculpture


Cowboys look like Cooper, Wayne,
Marvin; or tall, thin Stewart. I seen
movies in the 50’s,
High Noon or Liberty Valance with
great songs.

Not s’posed to look like the sculpture.
The horse is right,
but the cowboy rock sittin’ is short,
round-faced with a big ‘stash and
no gun, holdin’ reins
lest Ol’ Buck runs off spooked.

The wrangler wears chaps and a jacket.
Reality ain’t movies, both’s art though.


Drop your blinders and look both ways.
Mind the gaps for, “The history of mankind is carried on the back of a horse.”


Essay: I Wear Lorry’s Ring

I think my aunt Lorry loved me a lot more than I realized. I remember how each week she’d cut the latest Dennis the Menace gag comic, single-panel cartoon from her newspaper along with a word of the day snippet, and she would mail them to me accompanied by a little note. My behavior reminded her of the cartoon protagonist, or vice versa. While I never saw the connection (the cartoon being more innocently contrived), it was the only mail I recall getting from anyone, particularly from an adult when it was not my birthday or Christmas. Lorry and what she did for me are among many things I failed to adequately appreciate in my childhood. But I do now.

When I graduated from Texas A&M, my mother’s older sister also paid for my class ring. Aggie class rings are a big deal to alumni (aka former students), as they are for grads of many other schools. I still wear the ring today, almost 50 years later.

Her real name was Dolores. My sister and I, along with our cousin, called her Lorry, but I never asked why. For most of my life, Lorry lived and worked in Washington, D.C., about a four-hour drive from Wilks-Barre today with light traffic, but almost twice that by bus in the 1950s. So, I didn’t see her often. She also never married and was considered old fashioned and a very traditional, staunch Catholic, even back in the day. She was not difficult, but would criticize wrongdoing when she saw it, explaining her labored relationship with my father.

I suspect Lorry was quite bright. Had it not been for the negative antifeminist influences of her early 20th Century culture and her family, she would have achieved more, not that she did poorly for one who entered the female workforce early in the Great Depression. But then, I’d not have a famous cartoon character as a childhood alter ego, my vocabulary might be less sufficient, and my word-love less geeky had she been different.

Unlike me and little Jackie Paper, Dennis (the menace) Mitchell is still five-and-a-half years old. The cartoon dates to 1951, and it is still in world-wide syndication. Can you imagine Dennis in his late 60s? (I smiled when I wrote that question.) I can. I imagine him in his early 70s, still with the persona of a five-year-old troublemaker.

For the record, Puff the Magic Dragon and Jackie Paper are in their late fifties. I try not to mentally associate them with AC-47 Spooky gunships through that song, but that’s part of me too. There is a certain sadness to all that 1960s and ‘70s stuff that my Irish nature seems to nostalgically understand, but few others get.

But I wonder. What would the Lorry I knew think of me today? As always, there are some aspects of me with which she would undoubtedly find fault. I’m sure she would explain where I could improve. Fair enough. But would she get my ironic sense of humor? What about my vocabulary? I’d probably get a dictionary or world atlas for my birthday (again). And what of her opinion of my writing? My poems (the clean ones)?

Do you have a troublesome young family member? Do you think he or she will remember you and write about you 40 years after you die? Lorry would not have thought so either. But she’d a been wrong. And she might have corrected my spelling and grammar. And I would change it – for her.

What we see as we look both ways changes with life and times,
but not really who we are.
Mind the gaps, but cherish the memories.

Sammi’s Weekender #142: Looking-glass


i know. you know this privilege
denied many, this gift of age,
being long of life. pleasures
charging dues paid
with guilt, pain, and sorrow.

now i see that it’s
no longer me; old bones
with thin skin,
lost hair
or worthless white wisps.

does this looking-glass lie?
let me be what i was—

young. look, old man. look at me.
i’m your truth.


See truth and reality in the looking glass. Mind the gaps and ignore the bald spots.

 

Poetry: Put it on our bill

A Starbucks in a grocery store,
it’s still a place to shop
for food, and in this state,
wine and beer—a super market—
what my mother would call
the Acme (pronounced ack-a-me
in the vernacular of “The Valley”
where I grew up)—

those early places that put
the small Mom and Pop, corner
stores with personal
one-on-one service and where I,
even as a kid, could say,
“put it on our bill,” out of business.

No receipt. No stolen identity fears,
just trust. A time and place where everybody
knew my name and who my
family was, and knew more about all
of us than any one of us did. And
the cash register had a crank handle,

and I could walk there
in five minutes and nobody
had a credit card and Starbucks
and my first child were still
then, 15 years from now.

That Mom and Pop stuff
is all gone now.
But there’s $14.65 left
on my Starbucks gift card.

Look both ways, there is no time limit on gift cards,
and I will think of you every time I use it.
Mind the gaps, they have limits and must be used.

Poetry: In the Stacks

Circa 1890

Some things I’ve always known,
like where the Library was,
especially the one with a funny name,
the Osterhout Free Library,
in my hometown, which to me
was and is The Library.

Looking like the Presbyterian church
it first was in 1849,
with (now gone) ivy covered walls,
hinting of mysteries, adventures,
and the wisdom within;
a mile to walk was nothing
for a keen young lad to go
for a book or two.

Through church doors that open
into the vast, once Calvinistic,
nave with colorless unstained leaded glass,
now with desks and shelves filled
with books and things,
one finds it all.
Hush! Whisper please.
People are reading.

Off to the left dim dark stacks
beckoned like a secret
church transept and silent choir loft.

The true spirits of the library’s haunted
dark and dingy, yet welcoming,
old book-scented stacks, silent
dust and maybe mischief,
with muffled giggles of children
or lovers, each playing with
resident hushing ghosts.

Long ago—a place of prayer,
now a sanctuary
of human wisdom and happiness.

***

Comb the dark stacks of old libraries looking both ways for dusty old history.
Mind the gaps and giggles of the ghosts.


Note: Because this was my first community library during my formative years, it was what I expected all others to look like. Not a bad standard.

Click the image to link to library information.

 

Poetry: Makin’ My Bed

Retired me. Who cares?
Nothing left to lose.
But I make my bed
almost every day, if I so choose.
That means something,
but I have no idea what or why.

On most days, that’s a lie cuz,
for five decades,
Yolonda did
but when she don’t,
I do
if I can get there
first and I wonder why.

I look at the sheets, covers, and depending
on the time of year, the top bed spread
searching for signs of how I slept that night.
I mean. Who cares? Right?

The pillow goes to the floor, I press a button
to flatten the mat before the sheet is pulled
to the tight top where
it is — only when made.
Like a surgeon
I begin the art
of vanishing lumps and wrinkles.

The Air Force gave me Army lessons
on how to make my bed,
more like a bunk or cot.

Rudely rousted at reveille with
bright lights and loud
everything to fall out into
the dark of early morning
in a few minutes for roll call.

At 18, mom’s boy had to be
all bright and spiffy,
a sharp troop at Dress right,
DRESS, attentive eyes FRONT.
A bed made so tight
two-bits bounced a foot
or gigged in for the weekend,
shining brogans, boots, buttons, and brass.
Our racks trashed.

Who cares? Right? I did then.
I look at my bed now,
no olive drab green wool blanket,
tightly tucked with
no fake pillow
too small for a human head,
no quarter to bounce.

Retired but bed made.
No gigs. Weekends free, still. A made
bed is work of art, a memory,
and if nothing else,
it’s ready for me at the end of this day.

Play Retreat first, then Taps, sleep well,
final Reveille sounds early.

***

Both ways begin with dreams at night,
in the morning it’s high and tight.
Look both ways.
Mind the gaps and the gigs. FALL OUT!


Gig is military slang for demerit. Gigged in means restricted to barracks due to excessive demerits. “Gig ‘em, Aggies!” is not the same gig.

Poetry: Sammi’s Weekender, ‘longevity’


I Hear You Died

Letting go of one you know,
or knew, reminders of a finite
life, is not easy as we
reminisce of times when
longevity was forever.

Another man down, life
brought to end before ending,
not here to listen to, no one
hears me talk about you.

When I heard you had died
My mind began to trip and bounce
over thoughts and memories
of our times past,
when we both were alive.

You taught me well.


When faced with loss, look both ways,
your past with them, your future alone.
Mind the gaps for hints of eternity.